From Good to Great

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This is a sort of book review and a book that has been on my reading list for some time - Good to Great by Jim Collins. I see it recommended on many of the 'must read' book lists for business and leaders. Such as here and here (always worth checking the lists out for other recommendations). It was first brought to my attention several year ago listening to this CEO who compared reading about leadership as essential for leaders as reading anatomy books is for surgeons. This comment sent my reading to a different level and I haven't looked back. Good to Great is still on his recommended reading list.

Good to Great is a result of 5 years of research looking at why and how some companies made the leap from good to great. Taking into account circumstances and comparing with similar industries it points to the conclusion that great companies become great through discipline and choice.

I will admit I put off starting this book for far to long. Flipping through the pages I saw charts and comments on stock prices and lots of numbers. I thought it was going to be all facts and figures and charts that I wouldn't understand. Oh how wrong I was.

Maybe because I started with this assumption and maybe just because it is - but once I started I was blown away by how readable and interesting this book was. I could instantly see correlations as to how to the concepts discussion relate to not only to healthcare delivery but to me as an individual.

The book covers 7 concepts that flow from 3 broad stages:

Disciplined People - Disciplined Thought - Disciplined Action


  •         Level 5 Leadership

  •         First Who... Then What

  •         Confront the Brutal Facts

  •         The Hedgehog concept

  •         A culture of Discipline

  •         Technology Accelerators

  •         The Flywheel and the Doom Loop

Each chapter covers a concept and from the research base offers a clear explanation of the concept and the rationale as to why it is a factor for moving from good to great.

To get an overview of these concepts the best place I can point you (other than reading the book itself) it to Jim Collin's website. It is a gold mine of resources, articles, videos and extracts that covers not only this book but his other books as well. A quick link here will take you to all the concepts that he discusses.

'Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus'

I'm not sure if you have come across the phrase 'on the bus' or reference to bus journeys when talking about leadership, business and change management. I first came across this phrase shortly after I started as a charge nurse. When talking to some of my senior staff I wanted to know if they were on the bus with me - in that were they with me and the idea that we were now traveling in a different direction to previously. I received a fabulous reply that sticks with me everyday - yes they say, we are on the bus but the bus is moving just a bit to fast.

When exploring the concept -  First Who..Then What - the talk of the bus is making sure the right people are on the bus first, and the wrong people are off the bus - before you make the direction of travel clear. The idea being with the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off it) they will be able to adapt to whatever direction the bus needs to go in.

When reading this chapter I thought of the great opportunities you have when recruiting new staff, this concept can bring a new perspective for you when you are looking for your next team member and in the midst of the recruitment process.

Getting the wrong people off the bus is not as severe as it sounds but does require prompt action. A great lesson for me was to consider - is this the right job for this person before getting them out of (or worse watching them leave) the organisation totally.

What I really like about the chapters and the layout of the book are the practical steps that help define each concept.

So when looking at - First Who...Then What - the practical disciplines are:

  • When in doubt, don't hire - keep looking
  • When you know you need to make a people change - act
  • Put your best people on the biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems

Jim Collins is a dynamic and clear speaker and in my internet travels I came across this blog which links to a fabulous talk from Jim Collins. The blog points to just a 10 minute section of the presentation - Top 10 to dos for young leaders. I've also created a PInterest Board with other links relevant to this book and the concepts it covers.

This book is a wealth of information, one I would add to my (ever growing) recommendation list for you.

BooksKatie Quinney